It’s only March. There are 9 months of nasty left to go in 2017, but Jordan Peele might have just effortlessly snared the horror movie of the year with Get Out. In his directorial debut, Peele, the writer of abducted kitten comedy Keanu and one half of writing duo Key and Peele, has crafted a perfect horror satire with knife-edge humour and genuinely chair-grabbing tension. The monster in this movie is racism and Peele isn’t afraid to talk about it.
If you’ve missed the well-deserved hype, Get Out is the story of a young black man visiting his white girlfriend’s family for the first time. While he expects a normal level of weird, there’s something just a little too off about the situation. Made for only $4.5 million, Get Out managed to gross more than $100 million in the US in its first 3 weeks of release, making it the fastest grossing Blumhouse movie of all time. Given that this is the production company churning out the mega money-spinning Insidious and Sinister franchises, this is no mean feat for a movie from a first time director.
Here are the 5 reasons Get Out might just be the horror movie of the year. And, don’t worry, you’re going to find fewer spoilers here than in the trailer. If you haven’t seen the trailer and don’t want to know anything, maybe come back after you’ve seen it. And oh, what a coincidence, this unexpected horrific treat is out in cinemas in the UK today.
1. Laughter is the best terrifying medicine
Jordan Peele understands comedy. He cut his writing teeth on making people laugh and this means he’s got a ridiculously keen eye for the absurd. Those situations that seem normal before you notice that the beats are a little off and things are getting slightly strange. While there’s clearer comedy relief in the shape of Chris’ wise-ass TSA worker friend Rod, played to perfection by Lil Rel Howery, the moments where Get Out truly shines are the little sections of darkness in its characters. Awkward comedy becoming something far, far more sinister. Sure, there’s humour in Rose’s family trying to act cool around Chris but the satire runs deeper as things take a serious turn for the dark and Peele isn’t afraid to twist expectations in the best way possible.
2. It’s a perfect combination of thrills and social commentary
Horror movies have always tackled the political themes of the day. Few genres can literally spear social commentary to the floor as deftly. George Romero’s zombie movies take an axe to the head of modern consumerism, Videodrome literally gives a television guts as it skewers the techlust of humanity, and The Invasion of the Body Snatchers is the ultimate celluloid representation of the terror and paranoia of the Cold War.
Get Out is a product of our times but even Peele has discussed the fact that much has changed even since he started production. “It’s interesting because when I first wrote the film we were in this era, which I’ve been describing as the post-racial lie era in America. We had a black president and the whole conversation of race was kind of hushed up,” he said in an interview with Sci-Fi Now.
“Now we live in a time when obviously racial tensions are very clear and present, and so I think the movie will be actually feel more welcome now. I think people are engaged with the topic, and I think the use of genre in this conversation will add some fun to the topic to be honest, a topic that’s not much fun at all, but I think that this is a film where you can escape from it all and focus on the genre and the popcorn and you can go yell at the screen but then you can also use it as a reference point in conversation.”
3. It even sounds horrific
While a stack of modern horror directors are erring on the side of trippy ‘80s synth to score their tales, Peele has taken a different approach with a score from classical composer Michael Abels. This is Abel’s very first film soundtrack and he’s best known for combining classical music with jazz and blues. This wasn’t lost on Peele who wanted a very specific sound for Get Out. While there are some very traditional stressed horror strings, there’s a flavour of something else in there and cranked up to cinema volume it’s downright unsettling.
“I was into this idea of distinctly black voices and black musical references, so it’s got some African influences, and some bluesy things going on, but in a scary way, which you never really hear,” explained Peele in an interview with GQ. “African-American music tends to have, at the very least, a glimmer of hope to it - sometimes full-fledged hope. I wanted Michael Abels, who did the score, to create something that felt like it lived in this absence of hope but still had [black roots]. And I said to him, “You have to avoid voodoo sounds, too.” And if the opening credits sound sinister, they are. The chanting voices you hear are a literal Swahili warning screaming for Chris to get out. Reassuring.
4. The cinematography is grim and terrifying
This isn’t just a horror movie with brains, it’s also ridiculously easy on the eyes. Shot with precision, everything is just where it should be. Peele has cited The Stepford Wives as an inspiration and it’s evident in the design of every shot. Allison’s parents house is the epitome of the ‘American dream’ but whether inside or out, it feels like a trap from which we’re willing the couple to escape. Peele’s camera is claustrophobic and unflinching as it lingers over faces for just slightly too long as it builds endless pressure inside a bombshell of social satire.
5. Get Out knows how to play your expectations
Just like The Invitation - which if you haven’t already watched on Netflix, you need to see immediately - Get Out has a palpable sense of menace from the get go. Of course something’s going to go wrong. There’s no movie if it all goes swimmingly but how does Chris end up looking like he does in the poster shot? What on earth can go this wrong? Peele effortlessly steers us through a narrative that on the surface seems relatively simple. Is this a whodunnit with only one villain or are we being misdirected? Is Allison’s brother just drunk when he takes such glee in meeting Chris? Oh now there's comedy... What the hell does this all mean? Nobody raises their voice, everyone stays perfectly calm, but you’ll fall to pieces in your cinema seat. The squirm is real and utterly masterful. Oh and yes, just to be clear, this is a horror film.